To get to Sambo’s Tavern, you have to drive around the NASCAR track at Dover Downs and past cornfields to the little town of Leipsic. It’s not far, a pleasant six miles or so. And the seafood is so worth it.
Sambo’s has been around more than 50 years, begun by the father of the current owner. It’s an old-fashioned crab house, situated on the narrow but picturesque Leipsic River.
No white linen here — tables are covered with last year’s newspapers and a roll of paper towels serves as napkins. But that’s just what you want if you are going to get to work on a dozen steamed crabs — or that enormous Dungeness crab the diner near us seemed to relish.
Me? I want a crabcake for lunch and that’s what I got: crabmeat fresh from nearby waters cooked golden brown, simple and sweet. (And I was assured that the Maryland-born wife of the owner keeps the recipe authentic.)
The waitress also brought the most perfect fried flounder sandwich we’d ever seen or tasted, sweet crisp cole slaw and sweet, oniony hush puppies. We could have washed it down with a couple of Delaware beers — I saw Dogfish Head and 16 Mile (whose brewery is in nearby Georgetown). But after a heady morning spent in front of Dover Downs slots, I was just plain thirsty. Sweet tea was enough.
The front of the tavern makes me laugh. The signs warning those under 21 that they are not welcome and the “Don’t Park Here” signs belie the warm spirit inside. I’ve been to Sambo’s a couple times and I was happy to bring some of my favorite traveling partners here during our day away. The owner stopped us as we admired his Budweiser Clydesdales collectibles to tell us about them and the bar itself.
Sometimes old-fashioned just means out of date, old, passe. Sometimes it means when you’re doing things right, you just keep doing them.
Sambo’s does it right. And with a view.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman